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DEET And Picaridin

January 2, 2017

person applying repellant

I know that I have mentioned both DEET and Picaridin in my previous blogs, but for the past few weeks, I have been conducting my own personal evaluations of the two insect repellants. Before I start, I would like to say that everything in this article is based on my own personal experiences and nothing more. All of the information came from my head to the keyboard and now to you, my readers, so please forgive me ahead of time for not fact checking. 

Over the past month, I have traveled from the tropical climate in South Florida, where mosquitoes are a daily annoyance and the threat of Zika is ever present, onto a totally different and much more intense tropical climate in Southeast Asia, where the mosquitoes are inescapable and the threat of dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis feels nearly inevitable! Through my tropical and mosquito-ridden travels, I learned a few things about the best ways to protect myself from those evil mosquitoes and their nasty bites. 

I am the type of person who is always getting bitten by mosquitoes, and whenever I am around no one near me gets bitten. Aside from the itchiness, I never really cared, until recently when Zika spread into South Florida. I immediately stocked up on both DEET and Picaridin repellants. While in Florida, it was much easier to avoid mosquitoes so I only needed to apply the repellant once in the beginning of the day. I alternated DEET and Picaridin every day and both effectively kept the mosquitoes from biting me, so I was pretty happy. But it wasn’t long before I stopped using DEET because I didn’t like the way it made my skin feel as if I was saran-wrapped with sticky oil that retained heat from the sun. It’s a weird description, I know, but that is exactly what it felt like. DEET and Picaridin are only effective if you cover every inch of exposed skin, and for some ladies that means putting the dress on after applying the insect repellent. Whenever I used DEET it was like putting on an extra layer of clothes in the hot Florida sun, and I felt like I was constantly sweating, even indoors, and my face was always oily. So nasty! And then when I compared it to Picaridin, it felt like a no-brainer. Within five minutes of applying the picaridin insect repellent, I had totally forgotten that I was wearing it!  No stickiness, no smell, and it worked just as well as DEET! So I stuck with Picaridin for the rest of my time in Florida.

Once I traveled to Southeast Asia, I realized the mosquito problem in the east was so much worse and would put DEET and Picaridin to the ultimate test.  Over here, enclosed buildings are scarce so there is no escaping the vicious mosquitoes. I discovered that the repellents don’t last as long as in the constant heat.  I had to reapply often, and I ended up bringing them around with me everywhere. Picaridin was much more comfortable to use, especially in the heat, but if you need to reapply then you have to find somewhere private to completely cover yourself again, which can be hard to do sometimes. DEET is easier to apply midday, but it was just so miserably stinky. I used DEET for complete coverage one day and I nearly melted, I had to rush home to shower it was so uncomfortable! The mosquitoes are so intense that is nice to have an extra layer of defense against them, so I started spraying my clothes with DEET and my skin with Picaridin thinking that the chemicals in DEET wouldn’t bother me as long as they were not on my skin. That was a big mistake! At first, I sprayed it on black dresses and it was fine, and then one day I sprayed it on my favorite white top. I’m sure some of you know what happened next. Cutting to the chase, it is now my favorite creamy-white-ish top with random yellow-ish ‘accents.’ 

After awhile I developed a pretty solid system:  in the mornings I apply full body coverage of Picaridin and I sometimes spray it on my clothes (no color changes so far) for extra protection. But I bring only DEET out with me. Picaridin lasts most of the day, it just wears off around the ankles towards the end.  When that happens, I will lightly spray my ankles with DEET and it protects my ankles for a couple hours until I get home. It doesn’t really bother my skin since I don’t need to use very much of it, but I am still careful to keep it away from my clothes.

In my personal opinion, after putting them up to the ultimate test, I conclude that DEET and Picaridin both do a good job at protecting you from mosquitoes.  Both insect repellents held their own in an incredibly challenging tropical climate, but if I were back in Florida’s less intense climate, then I would probably just use Picaridin. Of course, I am still a little biased after the ‘shirt incident’.

I hope my opinions and experiences helped you pick an insect repellent, or at the very least made you laugh!




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